#10 Lycos Pontiac driver Johnny Benson grew up racing several times a week on the short tracks around the Upper Midwest. So Benson was happy when news leaked out that NASCAR is likely to bump up the 2001 schedule from 34 to 36 races by adding the 1.5-mile track in Joliet, Ill and the 2-mile track in Kansas City, Kan. But Benson also knows that expanding the schedule puts even more demands on the crewmembers whose family life is already limited because of the demands of Winston Cup racing. Benson's crew chief James Ince had mixed feelings about the new schedule. In addition to seeing the new track as an opportunity to race in front of his home fans, the Springfield, Mo. native said the expansion of the schedule creates problems in making sure his 40-member team remains focused on racing.
Johnny Benson On Schedule Additions:
"As a driver we love to race. I'd race every week. But, the problem is these crew guys who get up at 5 a.m. work on cars all day then get home to their families at 7 p.m. every night and that's if they are not on the road at a race or test session. Sure they choose to do that, but I hope we don't lose more people because of the schedule. Racing is important, but not more important than family. I hope it never gets to the point where crew guys come to Winston Cup racing as something they want to do for a year or two then go on to something else that will let them stay home with their families more. This is such a good sport that I hope we always keep it family friendly. Maybe if we cut these weekends down to two-day shows it will solve the problem. That will allow NASCAR to add to the schedule as well as get the guys home more. We go to places like Richmond and Bristol and put on great show and they are both two-day shows."
Crew Chief James Ince On Schedule Additions:
"Kansas City is an exciting deal to me personally because that is my home race track. I've been fortunate enough to win about 300 short track races around that area during my career and have lots of friends and family who are probably all going to want passes. I'm glad we are adding Kansas City and Joliet because there are some great fans in that area of the country who don't get to see as many races as the fans in the Southeast do. I've been waiting for Kansas City for a long time.
"We are in the racing business. This is what we do and we are excited to race every weekend. But, there are two sides to this schedule issue. Everyone loves going to Joliet and Kansas City but those off weekends are growing rarer and rarer for the crew guys. The biggest thing we have with weekends off is that we have gotten used to working seven days a week for so many weeks in a row that when you do get a day off you realize 'Man, there is more to life than racing and it's kind of nice to have time off.' The problem is it takes about a week to get back in the mentality of working in the shop again.
"Adding races is also a tough deal on the business side because its going to cost our team and our sponsors more money because every time they add a race we have to go back and add personnel and build more cars and that isn't cheap. But, like I said, we are in the race business and that is what we do. I agree with Johnny on the two-day shows. That would solve the problem. We struggle awfully hard now trying to get our guys time off so that would help."
<pre> Race Information
Race: Saturday, May 6, 2000 in Richmond, VA
TV: ESPN 7:30pm/et
1999 Race Winner: Dale Jarrett
Race Speed Record: Rusty Wallace, 1997, 108.499mph
Track/Race Length: 0.75 mile oval, 400 laps, 300 miles
Practice: Friday, May 5th 12:30-1:55pm/et and 3:00-4:30pm/et; Saturday, May 6th, 11:30am-12:30pm/et
Happy Hour Practice: Saturday, May 6th, after 2nd round qualifying until 3:00pm/et, TV-none
Qualifying Draw: Friday, May 5th at 11:30am/et
First Round Qualifying: 2 laps for positions 1-25, Friday, May 5th at 5:30pm/et, TV-ESPN2 and live via MRN radio
Second-Round Qualifying: 2 laps for positions 26th-43rd, Saturday, May 6th at 1:45pm/et
Track/Race Qualifying Record: Jeff Gordon, May 1999, 126.499mph
Last Year's Pole Sitter: Jeff Gordon, 126.499mph
Pit Road Speed: 35mph